March 28, 2013
Editor’s note: Bruce is a participant in The Regenerative Practitioner series, and is writing a guest blog to share his reflections after each session. Here he reflects on an exercise using the generic tetrad framework to look at a project–in this case, building a table.
There are times when even the most promising projects come up against a brick wall, and so I find it useful to step back. At that point I am usually confronted by what is right in front of me. This most recent time it was the trash. Not the compostable or the recyclable, but that stuff that is just too good to throw away.
Specifically the super heave duty cardboard tubes and angles that lately is showing up in the packing of appliances and furniture. The stuff is strong, even stronger than some of the materials used to make the furniture. [Another variation of the same technology is used to make tubular concrete forms.]
I just cannot bare to throw it away, or even to send it to be ground up to make new, but probably inferior cardboard. There is so much potential here. But for what? It is strong and lightweight, and easy to work with, [cut, drill, screw and glue.] In form it resembles metal or plastic more than wood. I have a fascination with lightweight, portable furniture. So ————————-
My neighbor has a minimal workshop. The chop saw looks like the right tool, and in fact it makes a quick and very clean cut. He also suggests the super-fast drying glue and extra large head screws he is using on his travel trailer renovation. The point here being to utilize the tools and techniques which are both appropriate and available.
I also am very clear about my direction. This is not about making one table. I am interested in investigating the reuse of usually disdained materials. My helpful neighbor suggests he cam give it a finish to resemble wood or metal. No. That is not the point. [I'm not really terribly bothered by fake wood, but what this is about is real cardboard.]
So, chop, drill glue and screw, and only a few minutes later, a very structure appears. Strong enough to support the large man who decided to test my new creation by standing on it. Then I remembered the casters that I’d saved from the last time I couldn’t throw something out, and how cool it would be to have a top made of that safety glass with the wire in it.
Off to the glass shop where I find a tiny piece of that stuff costs $75 [ ! ] But the people in the shop are intrigued by the idea of a glass-topped cardboard table, and decide they can break the rules and let me in back to see the scrap bin. And there I see the ribbed-both-ways optic glass. How much? Eight bucks for the piece cut and edged. The setting pads are free.
If I look at what i’ve got, it’s a pretty cool little table. I send pics to friends, and post it on FaceBook. People I barely know are expressing enthusiasm. People want one. A gallery wants to show it. My neighbor wants to start a business making cardboard tables. So yes, indeed, there is something of an energy field around this little piece.
That is a lot more valuable than the piece itself. Also some reactions along the line of, “How do you make it into a unique and marketable product?” Which is actually not what interests me at all. The point being that there is always potential in the stuff no one wants, and also in the people who don’t initially see it.
Screwed and glued cardboard. Scrap glass.
March 24, 2013
It is almost becoming a cliché when discussing regenerative or living systems design that we need to stop seeing the world as discrete objects and start seeing, and working with it as dynamic and moving. A central focus of the Regenerative Practitioner® series is learning how to make that mental shift. Dynamic systems frameworks are one instrument utilized by Regenesis to that end. Another powerful instrument is story or narrative. Shifting how we see a project we’re working on from a cluster of objects to a dynamic living process moving through time is a powerful source of insight and creative energy. Shifting our way of seeing is just the first step however. The next big challenge comes in engaging others in a way that they can see, and be equally energized by, what you are seeing.
January 21, 2013
You want to integrate regenerative design into your practice. You know, from all you’ve read and heard, that it requires a “different way of thinking,” a new world-view, and you’ve read the lists of attributes for both. So now what? At Regenesis, we’ve spent a lot of time helping people shift the way they think, and we fully appreciate the challenges that involves.
The way we think is shaped by patterns that we’ve been taught or picked up over the course of our lives, patterns that are deeply embedded in our culture and institutions. Over time, these patterns have become increasingly interdependent and self-reinforcing and, most problematic, increasingly habitual because they are invisible to us. If we want to change how we think, the first step must be to make visible the patterns that currently shape our thinking. Only then can we decide which are useful when, and which condemn us to degenerative outcomes. More
January 9, 2013
In an era of decreased budgets at every level of government the disasters caused by storms like Super Storm Sandy present us real problems. They also are causing us to be creative and to form unique partnerships. While building hard infrastructure is expensive and time consuming, partnering with nature and allowing the re-establishment of buffering wetlands may be more cost and outcome effective. Our choices may have more to do with habit than rationality.
In his November article on the Sustainable Cities Collective website Colin Cafferty discusses the value of buffering wetlands. Filling in wetlands and building close to the water has made us vulnerable to sea level rise and storms. “New York’s wetlands … are actually a key difference for the protection of the city’s citizens against future flooding disasters. Wetlands provide natural flood control by temporarily holding and absorbing floodwater, reducing the energy of storm surges and helping to control erosion of the shoreline.” Similar arguments were made following Hurricane Katrina about the impacts of the loss of gulf wetland communities.
Cafferty argues that the lack of planning and development guidance to protect these important “green or soft” infrastructures has boxed us into a difficult position. “President Obama has pledged to rebuild storm-torn neighborhoods in Queens and Staten Island – but is this really the best way forward?” The question seems to be, do we want to rebuild in ways that we know are prone to flooding and so be forced to spend more money protecting vulnerable communities or to give some of the land back to the wetlands that can absorb the storm surges and protect remaining communities? “…the cost of building storm surge gates … could cost a staggering $23 billion. Building new wetlands and restoring existing ones, which are allowed to flood and cushion residential areas and offices, is potentially a far more affordable approach.”
As Colin points out our reaction to events like this illuminate how our minds work. It reminded me of an exercise used by Harvard Business School professor Max Bazerman. In his classes he auctions off a twenty dollar bill with four rules:
1. Everyone is free to bid
2. Bids are to be made in one dollar increments
3. The winner of the auction wins the bill
4. The runner up must honor his/her bid, while receiving nothing in return
December 10, 2012
Alternative Gifts International
There’s a lot of buzz about regeneration in the design, building and planning world these days. A special issue of the prestigious Building Research and Information journal (Regenerative Design and Development) is adding to that buzz, along with the 2013 Living Future unConference (Resilience & Regeneration). But in all that’s being written, talked about and presented, there’s a lot about the what of regeneration, but very little about the how. For working practitioners interested in the how, finding comprehensive, integrated learning opportunities designed to fit their work constraints is a major challenge.
To address this growing void, Regenesis is launching a regenerative learning community for people who are passionate about pioneering the evolution of how we create and inhabit our built environment. The first offering is an invitational, hands-on, live distance-learning series—The Regenerative PractitionerTM.
Ready to go beyond just talking about regeneration to putting it to work?
You can find out more about this regenerative learning community and whether it is right for you in a free distance-learning seminar being offered this winter. For information on the introductory seminar and how to sign up, go to The Regenerative PractitionerTM Introductory Seminar.
December 4, 2012
New beginnings are such hopeful times, filled with the belief that somehow all those behaviors that defined the past have been transformed or, at minimum, will slink off into the shadows and leave space for the better self we promise to be. So, with all the requisite hopes, this post marks a new beginning for Edge::Regenerate. Our first run lasted 12 months, and we came away with a healthy respect for the discipline required to post fresh new thinking week after week.
Why the new beginning now? Edge::Regenerate is taking on new purpose with the new initiative we’ve just launched at Regenesis. We’re stepping into the distance-learning world–our first offering an invitational series titled The Regenerative PractitionerTM, with the ultimate aim of growing a regenerative learning community. We’ll be writing more about that soon. In the meantime, our original welcome seems still relevant so we’ve re-posted it below.
Welcome to Edge : : Regenerate. Who are we? More details can be found on the Authors page, but basically we are professionals from business, community and economic development, education, architecture, Permaculture, and land development. We share a passionate belief that learning how to regenerate living systems—all living systems, human and otherwise—is the core imperative for the 21st Century. This imperative threads through, and gives direction to, the collaborations and dialogue that nourish our work within and across our individual disciplines.
Edge is “the outer or farthest point of something”; it’s to “have an advantage,” but it’s also “the point or moment just before a marked change or event.” For Ilya Prigogine, it was the place from which whole-system change was sourced. In ecology, it’s the area where different ecosystems or communities meet. This is where the “edge effect” takes place—a much greater abundance, diversity and fecundity of life than in any of the flanking communities.
Edge : : Regenerate is a dialogue in that edge where human and natural living systems meet. Questions and ideas we’ll be exploring there include: regeneration—what it really means, what it looks like in communities, business, development, etc., and why it’s essential. Living systems—what kind of mind is required to understand how they work and to design ways to partner with them in co-evolution? The role of humans on the planet, and the role of Place in helping us live it out. And many more.
Edge : : Regenerate is also an invitation to join our growing band of regenerates in this dialogue, deepening understanding and designing more intelligent manifestations of that understanding.
March 18, 2010
The idea of regeneration has clearly caught hold in the building and community development world. It’s starting to show up everywhere. But how can we tell whether a project is or will be regenerative? In embracing the term, are we in danger of demeaning its power if we don’t fully understand it? Is it just green building at its best—carbon neutrality; 100% renewable energy, all recycled materials? Or is it more, and if so what?
At Regenesis, we see it as not just “more”, but actually a different order of working, one that strives for a different order of effect. For example, a regenerative project, or community must, at minimum, manifest all four of these qualitative attributes. More
March 7, 2010
Let’s begin with a caveat. This will seem wrong to many of you. This is because it is not familiar and our brain prefers the familiar so it can conserve energy. Just remember this conservation is a threat to learning and discovery and particularly creativity and innovation. We have to manage our reactions to the new to open doors in the mind. There will be plenty of time and ways to test and validate if it is worth letting go of old molds and frameworks. But be willing to suspend certainty until you have experienced the different approach.
First, one begins with a Whole in mind and works from the whole, all the time. This may seem obvious, but it rarely happens. Lets remind ourselves how we know a whole. A whole is born (e.g. a person or animal) , formed by nature in her work (e.g. a canyon), or created by humans with an intention of being an enduring whole—e.g. a family. This contrasted with planning processes that work with functional aspects such as jobs or incomplete parts of a whole such as task forces . Additional examples here including working with a river, storm water or a city. These are not wholes. An example of a whole is a corporation, a watershed as demarcated by nature, a customer, or a valley. Puget Sound or Cascadia are wholes, not the State of Washington or the Province of British Columbia. More
February 6, 2010
Most people believe that sustaining the planet is a good idea, given the impacts that human civilization is having. Business has played a big role in creating those impacts, and has been playing a big role in trying to address them. The problem is that sustainability only looks at half of what needs to be taken into account when thinking about whole living systems. Sustainability primarily addresses reducing impacts and increasing efficiencies. Corporate sustainability programs are wrapped almost entirely around these goals.
But every experienced businessperson knows you can’t make a healthy business by only reducing inefficiencies. The experience of running a successful business teaches that it’s the ability of a business to generate value that is the real source of its vitality and viability. You can only make a healthy business by figuring out what you want to grow, how to grow it effectively, and then defining inefficiency as anything that doesn’t produce what you are trying to grow. What is true of business is also true of the planet. More
February 3, 2010
Via Pamela, here is an interesting post over at Lynda Gratton’s Future of Work blog about the power of community. Gratton points to three networks and communities that she believes we all as individuals will need to tap into and be sourced from in the future.
Gratton’s post reminds me of a frequent conversation that surfaces over here at Regenesis–namely, what it is that organizes or bounds a community. Virtual communities may organize themselves by an idea, a trend, or an exchange of services. In other words, virtual communties are driven and bounded by human forces. More